Friday, September 30, 2005

I Wish I Was In New Orleans

Painting by
John Haymsen
0433~Royal-Street-New-OrleansYesterday I spent all day in an expedited training in preparation to go south to do disaster assistance work with the Red Cross in the hurricane areas. The standard Disaster Assistance training takes days, and normally volunteers require some local experience responding to disaster incidents, before they can be sent off to a national disaster site. But as the trainers told us, this is the worst natural disaster to have ever hit the U.S., stretching over more than 90,000 square miles, and many of the olf protocols and practices have been streamlined in order to get aid to the survivors as quickly as possible.

I still have to get my doctor to sign off on a health status form to assure them I won't keel over dead while I'm down there. We will probably deploy within 2 weeks, but likely much sooner, to either Baton Rouge, Biloxi, or Jackson (not certain about Texas). I don't know where I will be going once I get to the staging area I'll be assigned, nor what I will be doing exactly. I asked to do bulk distribution, that is, travelling around the damaged areas in an ERV to deliver meals and/or supplies and check on the survivors' needs (my first choice), or I may do feeding, sheltering, or casework. They told us we could request specialties, but need to be flexible, as we will probably do a little of everything as needed, and will be put wherever they need us.

Regardless of what happens, I doubt I will have access to a computer, or that I will have the time to post anything if I do. People who were there during the worst of it spoke at the training session to tell us what they experienced, and as has come out the last few days, the reports of dangers and shootings and criminal behavior were very much overblown. But they worked 20 hour shifts, and slept in sleeping bags on the shelter floors, and the temps were 95 degrees with 80% humidity and bugs from hell, and people are traumatized and angry and in need of much patience and understanding. The weather and the bugs, they told us, will probably be the same till mid to late October. We may stay in hotels--there is more of that now--and electricity and water are available more widely, or we may be put in shelters. The shifts will probably be closer to 8 to 12 hours than 20. It's much better now than it was a few weeks ago. Traveling down will require going light, so I'll pretend I'm going backpacking. Toilet paper, insect repellent, sunscreen, and every expectation of living in dirty clothes for much of the time...sounds like the woods to me, except that I will have my cell phone with me at all times, as they recommended.

Don't think that just because a few weeks have passed that things are almost wrapped up. On hearing about me going down, some have said, "Oh, I thought they stopped sending people down there." They haven't, obviously. They need volunteers badly. The Red Cross chapter I will be part of, Southeastern PA or SEPA, is the 2nd largest in the country, and they have only gotten 90 people down there since Katrina hit, for 2-3 week stints. That's just 2 waves of volunteers. They expect to need people at this level through December, and the holiday season may be a time of even greater need. In Philly alone they have been working with over 700 families displaced by the storms, and over 600 of those came up here on their own without government or NGO aid. Just this morning the NYTimes reported that FEMA has only been able to house 109 families from Louisiana, which means hundreds of thousands remain homeless and in shelters and hotels.

Anyway, that's the situation so far. I have my employers to thank for allowing me to take this time off when it comes, and for paying me for it while I'm gone; otherwise I would never be able to afford to do it. It's a gift that's been offered to me, so I want to make it a gift to the people of the hurricane. I know many, possibly most people, are unable to afford the time away from work or their families, and this kind of work is not for everyone. But if you can possibly do it, if you are physically and emotionally and financially able to do it, please consider volunteering. The need is desperate.
More updates as the time gets closer.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Celebration Of A Modern Master

skeleton dog Pat Oliphant is the premiere editorial cartoonist living today. His work combines classic draftsmanship, beauty and mastery of medium with a powerfully keen sardonic edge and an unmatched ability to marry symbols to issues.

And one of the things that makes his work so singular, and has earned him the Pulitzer Prize and a place in the collections of the Library of Congress, is his timeliness; his eye catches those foolish evils of civic outrage that repeat again and again over decades, and he captures them in a way that remains fresh and open to continually new interpretations. Here is how the Library describes him in the introduction to Oliphant's Anthem; Pat Oliphant at the Library of Congress:
"Pat Oliphant won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1966, just two years after he left his native Australia for an American career. Now, thirty years later, he is considered among the most gifted practitioners in the history of the profession...

Oliphant weds two great traditions in political cartooning: the subtle wit and detailed artistry of the British tradition with the more blunt, spare style that persists in America. At the Library of Congress his cartoons and sketchbooks will be preserved alongside the most extensive collection of American political prints in existence, one of the finest assemblages of English satirical prints outside Great Britain, and thousands of original works by the most influential European and American cartoonists from the seventeenth century forward."
Because we can read him several times a week, and his work is familiar to nearly anyone who ever picked up a newspaper, it's easy to dismiss him as just another cartoonist. The familiarity renders him mundane. But he is anything but, and he has been particularly fine these last years of the Bush occupation, and especially with regard to the Iraq War. So I wanted to call your attention to the site--visit it and become acquainted with his amazing body of work. Below find a sampling of his earlier works, which resonate with relevance for today.


Above: Drawn when the 1991 Gulf War began. The streets were full of celebration, flag-waving and jingoistic fever. I remember being afraid to voice my dissent in the small, conservative town where I lived. Dissenters were threatened and sometimes harmed.


Above: Published the day after the February 13, 1991 bombing of a building where Iraqi civilians had taken shelter and pictures of the victims had filtered onto television past the Pentagon media blackouts, to shock the clueless American public.


Above: The destruction of the EPA, as epitomized by the appointment of Ann Goresuch and the beginning of the ruination of the Superfund, in 1982. Today, with the Bush appointment of Stephen Johnson at the EPA and the steady erosion of monies for the Superfund and other programs to deal with toxic chemicals, the agency is virtually moribund.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

And That's The Way It Is

24_Sept_DC 061It’s been a few days since the anti-war march in D.C., and by now there are some excellent write-ups about it out there, especially from Max Sawicky, eRobin, and William Rivers Pitt. Their experiences mirror what I saw and felt there, which was that it was an incredibly diverse grassroots commingling of countless groups and individuals who all shared a common goal--to end the Iraq war--and that the attendance was massive. Listen, I have been in large crowds before. I know what 100,000 people in one place feels like, and this was far vaster than that. There is no question in my mind that a half million would be a defensible count.

Coming out of the train at the Archives/Navy Memorial station, we were greeted by pro-war agitators with signs that read “War IS The Answer”, and “They’re Not Anti-War Protesters, They’re Traitors”. 24_Sept_DC 060 We headed up Pennsylvania Ave. and stopped at the Old Post Office for a break, where we discovered the American flag is considered a dangerous weapon. “No flags!” barked the guard, and one of us had to stay outside with the arsenal, while the rest of us had to empty our pockets and remove our traitorous buttons before we were allowed to proceed to the venerable inner sanctum, which, while lovely, still bore a suspicious resemblance to your local yuppie galleria.

We (my husband, our friend Lee, her daughter Dani and friend Alena) met fellow bloggers extraordinaire Robin and AltHippo at Freedom Plaza, and arrived at the ellipse around 11:30. Shortly after we were joined by another fine blogger,Thomas Nephew, and we so enjoyed our own company that we "remained together till almost the end of the march; chanting, singing, waving our PA For Democracy" banner and upside-down flag, getting to know folks as varied as a Latino union worker from Texas, an elderly blind rabbi, and a fellow SubGenius (Hey, Dr. Pissoff!) 24_Sept_DC 028 Even then the crowd, nearly elbow to elbow, was so huge we couldn’t see anything except what stuck up above our heads. Although the march was supposed to start at noon, we stood there for 2 more hours as the crowd grew and surged around us, absorbing more and more people, clueless as to why we couldn’t get started. It was only later that we realized the crowd had become so big that they couldn’t fit us all onto 15th Street.

We had decided to wait in front of the Code Pink folks and their banner, since it seemed like the obvious starting-point of the march, yet thousands of people had gathered ahead of us even then and kept coming, coming for hours, spilling out onto the sidewalks and lawns and park area, and still they couldn’t hold us all. (We later discovered that both Amtrak from NY and two of the DC Metro rail lines had stopped running—interesting timing--which makes the number of people then present even more amazing.) 24_Sept_DC 016 We watched the grassy area around the Washington Monument fill in with people. (The Monument, by the way, has glowing, blinking red eyes that glare down at you while the 1st Air Cav or something buzzes around it like a biplane trying to distract King Kong.) The speakers’ area and tents were only about half a city block away from us, yet the effort to fight our way through to get to them was so great that most of us decided to stay put, while Robin and her husband sallied forth to get the full technicolor experience.

Street theatre puppets shaped like skeleton horse and rider, giant sculptures, and people in death’s masks and costumes entertained and excited us while we waited. The union people beside us sang an infectious call-and-response. Lady Liberty on stilts. Numerous Uncle Sams. 24_Sept_DC 018 A guy in a George Bush mask on a tricycle with a backpack PA, welcoming us to his parade. When the crowd did finally start to move, it was extremely slow and intermittent. It took almost two hours to get from 15th Street to the White House in peristaltic contractions, working our way through the streets like a large meal through a python’s guts. Old people wore “Bush is a Moron” t-shirts. Babies wore buttons telling us to ask them about the Downing Street Memo. Songs and chants birthed and died in our throats along the way.

24_Sept_DC 025In spite of the tight quarters and forced intimacy, in spite of stepping on toes and shoving flagpoles into each other’s faces, in spite of the usual problems that arise in any enormous crowd, the feeling was mellow. People were gentle with each other, and patient, and the only anger I saw was directed at the murderers in the government. Regardless of the scowling, screaming youths in the few photos run by the media, there was none of that anywhere within our sphere. People were enjoying themselves, and welcoming each other, and tolerating each other. 24_Sept_DC 030 The atmosphere was festive, like a fair or a carnival, and it was exhilarating to be with others who shared our goal. It was a constant high, being with them and feeding off their excitement. It was always about ending the war. I never, ever felt the anti-war message was lost or watered down. Only near 4:30, at the very end of the march, did a group of youngsters come drumming down the street chanting about Palestine. By then things were breaking up. We were heading for the train. Their appearance seemed like an afterthought, and about as important.

But by the time I got home and had a chance to peruse some of the initial reporting on it in the main news outlets, I couldn’t believe how trivialized and ignored it had been, and how tiny the numbers were that were reported. Today, as I told some of my co-workers about the day, they shook their heads, saying it was the first they heard of it and they hadn’t noticed any coverage of it in the news. Most of the first reports didn’t even waste the usual snark on the event. That job was left up to The Left That Eats Its Own. Some merely pretended it didn't even happen. Some were too interested in a sci-fi movie to care. By far, the most vituperative accounts I saw came from bloggers who weren't there, and relied on their exposure to an hour of television news for their information--the very same hated MSM they rail so poignantly about. They thought they were seeing the truth on that screen? What happened to the day when people expected the MSM to distort things? Did they suddenly become real journalists overnight? Why is this suddenly an issue of almost fatal merit?

24_Sept_DC 020 Marching in Washington D.C. on September 24 was the best thing I could have done that day, and I’m proud to have been there, and proud to have contributed to it, and I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks. I’m sick of reading the broadsides against the organizing and the sponsors, the marginalization of the event, the trivializing of the numbers who attended, and the wailing about how this is no way to get the Democratic machine to get on board because that’s the only way to end the war, world without end, amen.

You know what? You’re going to grow old and gray and watch your last eyetooth fall out before you see the timid-ass, clueless, idea-impoverished, greedy, cowardly, opportunistic Democratic machine get on board with anything that doesn’t guarantee them a steady influx of lobbyists’ dollars and a safe and soft ride from one election to the next. Yeah, they know how to organize the skeleton of a campaign, they have the infrastructure in place, but what’s it to you if they don’t use it for what’s important? The last decades are full of chump arguments by the oh-so-moderate liberal contingent about how oh if only we could get those big dogs on board we would have a shot at making the world bloom again, tra-la! Decades full of left-brained, hard-nosed, practical, realistic, centrist arguments like the kind you read ad nauseum in The New Republic. Hasn't worked for ya so far, has it folks? 8 years of Clintonesque compromises and keeping the nose clean and avoiding dirtying yourselves with the too, too left. It ended in a facsist takeover and a one-party state, if you didn't notice by now.

24_Sept_DC 040Anyone who looks at the march and says it didn’t matter because no one important was on board doesn't know how to measure importance. They want a leader, a Martin Luther King, to get up and speak at these things, but where do they propose we find such a one? Not one person, outside of Robert Byrd, can match that kind of eloquence, and the left holds its nose at Byrd because of his white-robed past. They say the message was too diffuse, but they weren't there to be able to say exactly what the truth was. They sit in their comfy chairs like the 101st Keyboard Kommandos they love so to skewer, and pronounce judgement on things they neither experienced themselves nor lifted one finger to change. They compare today's mobilization efforts to the 60s and think somehow things are different. They hold up the Winter Soldier as the moment of perfection that changed it all. It was not. It was only one of thousands of marches, demonstrations, and public maneuvers to grab the attention of the media and the powers that were. It took years and years and thousands of the dead. Yippies and street theatre and chants were "diffusing the message " back then, and it took more than a couple hearings. It took a gradual groundswell of people, led by the students and the wackjobs, taking to the streets over and over again, in numbers large and small, forcing the media to pay attention and fighting constantly against distortions of the movement, to get to that last helicopter evacuating Saigon. Even the clear criminality of the president of the United States could not unseat the machine that sent our children to their deaths and living deaths back then. Things don't change with the snap of a finger or a lightbulb cartoon balloon going off over some yupscale DLC type's brain.

24_Sept_DC 067 Anyone who says there was too much theatre there on Saturday, or the people behind it were too wacky, or the wackjobs ennabled the media to make it a joke, or one march isn’t going to change anything, needs to stop whining and fingerpointing, get off their ass, and show us some blueprints: what's your big idea for turning the country around? What have you done so far, other than type out your disapproval for the efforts of others? Let's have it, and let's hear what you yourselves are doing to make changes, and then maybe I'll listen. Till then, I'll do what I think is important for others, and what is life-affirming for me. Because declaiming in H.L. Mencken tones about the crappiness of it all is good for blowing off steam for awhile, but it doesn't do a damned thing to make things better. (And yes, I'm both inside and outside the system, working on multiple levels to bring positive change to my community and to the nation and the wider world as well. Just in case you wondered. And even if you didn't.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Calling Clarence Darrow

Since the absurdity that is the "Intelligent Design" crusade currently targeting the Dover School District of my home state is on the front page of The NYTimes, and also since I'm not feeling so well, this seemed as good a time as any to re-visit the post I put up last November about this issue. As the Times article says:
"What happens here could influence communities across the country that are considering whether to teach intelligent design in the public schools, and the case, regardless of the verdict, could end up before the Supreme Court."
ID posits, not a "scientific theory", but a philosophical and theological question: was life created by an animating force with self-awareness and intent? And because this is a question for clerics and philosophers, it simply doesn't belong in a science classroom. Fini.

Set the Wayback Machine to November 21, 2004---

South of Harrisburg, Pennsylvanians in the Dover Area School District have adopted a familiar tack: bringing religion into the classroom. (Said The Philadelphia Inquirer-link elapsed):

“The rural, 3,600-student school district, 20 miles south of Harrisburg, is the first in the nation to require the teaching of "intelligent design," a theory that holds that the complexity of the natural world offers overwhelming evidence of a supernatural force at work.”
Not Christianity, per se, but the concept that a deity, not random chance or evolution as understood by scientists, is responsible for the progression of life as it exists. But there is no question that the people who pushed this agenda are Christian fundamentalists who believe in creationism and see this as a way to begin the introduction of that more blatant concept into the school.

"‘The only thing we want to do is provide a balanced playing field for the students, as opposed to just hearing about the theory of evolution,’ said school board member William Buckingham, a self-described creationist.”
Of course, since the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creationism was unconstitutional, the fundies have been not only fighting that decision, but coming up with something a little slicker to slip in, in its stead. In the meantime, that leaves the teachers, who of course would be the last people anyone would consult, confused and worried about what the outcome may be:

“The high school's three biology teachers, meanwhile, are wondering just what they are supposed to teach. They say they had no input into the new curriculum and worry that they could be sued.”
For those not familiar with it, “Intelligent Design” ostensibly stands alone as simply an idea that a god or supernatural being has set the forces of the universe into motion. But there is no question that it puts theology into the classroom, not as an idea to be studied critically, but as an alternate view of how the world was formed.

Writings of Fellows from The Discovery Institute, which underwrites ID research, reveal a politically conservative agenda focused on supporting right-wing Republicans and their policies, and a careful monitoring of creationism legal fights across the nation. Millionaire Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson, deeply involved with the
Christian Reconstructionists, poured millions of dollars into supporting the Institute in his attempts to discredit evolution theory. Concerned Women for America gleefully cites the Institute as an ally in its fight to eliminate evolutionary teaching on a webpage dripping with fundamentalist bile.

I don’t have the expertise nor the desire to get into an argument defending evolution here. I’ll leave that to the incomparable Stephen Jay Gould, God rest his soul, who tried endlessly to make people understand that just because evolution was a”theory” did not mean it was untrue or based on error. As he said in Hens’ Teeth and Horses’ Toes, Further Reflections in Natural History:

“Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.”
Funny, though, I’ve never heard anyone adequately explain how accepting the ideas of evolution renders belief in a purposeful creator untenable. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In the meantime, for a good read on the anti-ID arguments, The Skeptic’s Dictionary has a worthwhile page.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Medical Complications

An injury today makes it hard for me to sit at the computer for very long, so I will be writing intermittently, if at all, for a little while.

Back when I can.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Fair Witness

I'm back from a long day in D.C., with pictures and stories and plenty to tell, but I'm too tired to write about it yet. I will tell you this much, though: I glanced at the coverage given the march by Reuters, Knight Ritter, CNN, the AP (whose piece was reproduced by the LATimes), NYTimes, and WaPo.
24_Sept_DC 023
And they lie.
24_Sept_DC 032

Stop The War. Period.

Come to D.C. TODAY.


Do SOMETHING, for Christ's sake! Get your ass to the protest. If you can't do that, call your representatives. Send them letters. Write to the newspapers. Show your face somewhere and take a stand in public. Make your voice heard.

DO something.

Courtesy of Project for the Old American Century.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Stop The War VI

Come to D.C. on the 24th. I'll be there, hanging with Democracy For America, and carrying the flag in the upside-down signal of distress. Plans are to hook up with Robin of Fact-Esque, and Barbara of Mahablog, and possibly Neddie of By Neddie Jingo and Melanie of Just A Bump in the Beltway. If the reports from of Operation Granite at Kos are reliable (thanks for the tip to Nur al-Cubicle), we may have to take steps to ensure we aren't framed, or worse, disappeared down the black hole that has become the Bush-approved legal system.

Come with us.


Stop The War V

Come to D.C. on the 24th.


Courtesy, once again, of the Project for the Old American Century.

The Mathematics of Wind Speed

From the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather:

"Damage from winds increases as the square of the speed; that is, the speed multiplied by itself. For example, the force of the wind in a weak hurricane (74 mph/119kph) is doubled when the wind increases to about 100 mph (an increase of the wind's speed by only one-third)...
In many locations in the United States, winds over 50 mph (80 kph) occur almost every year, and not too infrequently they reach 75 mph (121 kph) without causing much damage. However, since a 100-mile-per-hour wind doubles the damage, it is potentially much more significant."
As reports of Rita's wind strength change, we should bear this in mind. While the drop from 175 to 145 mph is significant, it does not mean she is not to be taken seriously. As of the writing of this post she is only 10 mph down from a Category 5, and is estimated to hit land tomorrow.

rita noaa 9.23

And watch out for those tornadoes in Texas.

(Note: All maps reproduced on this site courtesy NOAA are the most recent available at the time of posting.)

We Still Don't Get It

This morning Hurricane Rita chugs along at 140 mph, on target to flatten the coastline in her path as a Cat 4 storm. Better than a 5, absolutely, but its's troubling that it has lost so little power in the time it was downgraded yesterday.
I woke a little while ago to BBC World's dreary recitation of woes being experienced by the 2 million people fleeing Rita across the Gulf Coast: stalled lines of traffic more than 20 miles long, overheated and stalled and gasless cars lying in dead hulks by the roadsides, nightmare lines at the gas pumps and shortages there, calls from the governor of Texas to be patient and know that the irritated evacuees have done the right thing. And in the NYTimes the situation sounds even worse:
" Heeding days of dire warnings about Hurricane Rita, as many as 2.5 million people jammed evacuation routes on Thursday, creating colossal 100-mile-long traffic jams that left many people stranded and out of gas as the huge storm bore down on the Texas coast.
Acknowledging that "being on the highway is a deathtrap," Mayor Bill White asked for military help in rushing scarce fuel to stranded drivers. "
If the whole unfolding mess isn't futher proof of the utter failure of the Deptartment of Homeland Security in planning and helping municipalities plan for disasters,there's this:
"The Houston area's two major air gateways, Hobby Airport and Bush Intercontinental, suffered major delays when more than 150 screeners from the Transportation Security Administration, facing their own evacuation concerns, did not show up for work. The agency later rushed in replacements, a spokeswoman said, but passengers, already burdening the system with extra luggage for their trips to safety, waited for hours to go through security."
Don't even think about what might happen if we were faced with a more sudden emergency like a nuclear attack.

BBC World, who was reporting on all this as I blearily groped for the snooze alarm, turned to a by-now familiar bete noir of the Right's, global warming and its effect on the formation of hurricanes. They spoke with Sir David King, Chief Scientific Advisor to the British government, who told them in no uncertain terms that the waffling arguments being presented against global warning may represent dissent about it amongst laypeople, but in the scientific community there is no disagreement. Hurricanes form most frequently when the water's temperature goes to 28 degrees C and higher, and we have not seen the kind of temperatures that have led to Katrina and Rita in over a million years. CNN also reported today on a Brit scientist, Sir John Lawton, who has had it with the political agendists in the US who refuse to believe what’s right in front of their noses on this issue:
"Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution which advises the government, made what the Independent newspaper said was a thinly disguised attack on the stance of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration.
"The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming," Lawton told the newspaper in an interview.
"If this makes the climate loonies in the States realize we've got a problem, some good will come out of a truly awful situation," said Lawton...
"There are a group of people in various parts of the world ... who simply don't want to accept human activities can change climate and are changing the climate. I'd liken them to the people who denied that smoking causes lung cancer."
Lawton said hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea.
"Increasingly it looks like a smoking gun," he said."
Thinking of that, combined with the nightmare attempts at evacuation ongoing now and during Katrina which have all dependent on the use of gasoline, roadways, and gas-powered vehicles to get people to safety, reminded me of a James Kunstler column he wrote right after Katrina on the viscious circle we have created for ourselves:
"The truth is that it does not really matter whether the freeways are crammed full of SUVs or nimble hybrid cars. The problem is car-dependency and the infrastructure for daily living predicated on it, not the kind of vehicles we run. I have yet to hear one US senator of either party propose that part of the recent $300 billion highway bill ought to be redirected to rebuilding America's passenger rail system -- even after the bitter lesson of Katrina, which demonstrated that people who don't own cars can't get out of harm's way in this country.
Another Big Thought still clogging the collective imagination is the idea that if only we switch to "alternative fuels" we can run the interstate highway system, Disney World, and WalMart just like before. The country is full of people now who want gold stars for running their household car fleet on discarded Fry-Max oil from the local Dunkin Donuts. . . or on oil squeezed from hemp seeds. Notice that the premise of a drive-in society remains."
As played out so perfectly in our flailing attempts to use it right now. We still don't get it, even after Katrina, even after the sky-high prices at the pumps. Maybe record numbers of deaths during the winter, when people can't afford to heat their homes, may wake us up.

But I doubt it, now. We're just a gigantic old drunk too long gone to stop drinking now.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Stop The War IV

Come to D.C. on the 24th.


As always, courtesy of the Project For The Old American Century.

Hurricane Update, 6:00 a.m. EDT

NOAA is giving a 13% chance of Hurricane Rita's eye passing within 65 knots of New Orleans between now and 1 a.m. Sunday. That could change, given the fickle nature of hurricanes, but it's still not worth sticking arounfd the wet streets of NOLA to take the chance. Galveston and Freeport, Texas currently have a 22% chance being hit. Galveston was wiped off the map and lost 6000 lives to the hurricane that hit it on September 8, 1900, still considered to be the nation's most deadly natural disaster.

Here's NOAA's latest advisory as of 3:00 a.m. EDT:


See Rit's most recent projected halo of influence here.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Paul Ruffles The Drawing Room

Krugman says the R-word:

"By three to one, African-Americans believe that federal aid took so long to arrive in New Orleans in part because the city was poor and black. By an equally large margin, whites disagree.
The truth is that there's no way to know. Maybe President Bush would have been mugging with a guitar the day after the levees broke even if New Orleans had been a mostly white city. Maybe Palm Beach would also have had to wait five days after a hurricane hit before key military units received orders to join rescue operations.
But in a larger sense, the administration's lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina had a lot to do with race. For race is the biggest reason the United States, uniquely among advanced countries, is ruled by a political movement that is hostile to the idea of helping citizens in need.
slae of slaves Race, after all, was central to the emergence of a Republican majority: essentially, the South switched sides after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Today, states that had slavery in 1860 are much more likely to vote Republican than states that didn't.
And who can honestly deny that race is a major reason America treats its poor more harshly than any other advanced country? To put it crudely: a middle-class European, thinking about the poor, says to himself, "There but for the grace of God go I." A middle-class American is all too likely to think, perhaps without admitting it to himself, "Why should I be taxed to support those people?"
Above all, race-based hostility to the idea of helping the poor created an environment in which a political movement hostile to government aid in general could flourish."
Read the entire thing here, and ask yourself why such an important discussion, so long mumbled behind embarassed hands, should now emerge only to be stifled by The Times' new money-making scheme?

Thanks to the disgruntled Yglesias for the birddogging, and to Bobby at The Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive, where we will look every Sunday and Wednesday for new Krugman from now on.

Stop The War

Come to D.C. on the 24th.


Thanks again to Project for The Old American Century.

Will You Be Having The .45 Or The 30.06 Tonight, Sir?

71489Here it comes: the old one-two punch:

"The Bush administration announced on Friday that the basic Medicare premium would shoot up next year 13 percent, to $88.50 a month, mainly because of the increased use of doctors' services.
Many beneficiaries will pay an additional premium for the new prescription drug benefit, expected to average $32 a month. So the combined premiums for doctors' services, outpatient hospital care and prescription drugs will average slightly more than $120 a month."
People on Medicare get to look forward to a 13% rise in their rates added onto the cost of prescription drug benefits scheduled to kick in next January, and there's more, as we will see.

The forced march to managed care starts with the choosing of one's own method of execution this month. Big Pharma has been licking their chops in anticipation ever since Dear Leader rounded up the weakest and most vulnerable and gave B.P. a loaded gun to aim at their heads:

"Who is covered. Anybody who is eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. It will be voluntary for most people, but mandatory for roughly 6.4 million current beneficiaries who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare because of age, income or disability. They are obligated to enroll and may be penalized if they do not."
Talk about fish in a barrel. But what if the more fortunate consumers choose to opt out of the prescription benefit to save money? Whatever will B.P. do?

"Medicare profit will be crucial to Big Pharma. If many of the 43 million eligible Americans sign up during the coming year, the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit may reshape the whole business of drug development and marketing, buoy sagging stock prices, and affect thousands of local jobs.
But if people do not sign up or if premiums rise sharply, pharmaceutical profit may become a red flag again for patients and politicians looking to control costs. The industry managed to block price controls when the program was designed in 2003.
"As Medicare becomes an increasingly larger part of the budget, I don't see how that doesn't create pressure for greater management of prices," said Marc Benoff, Medicare expert at Cambridge Pharma Consultancy, a unit of IMS Health, an industry-monitoring firm."
Noted humanitiarian Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a research center that advocates free-market health policies (read: you're on your own sucker!), "predicted that the premium increase would 'create a political firestorm.':

"Some areas of the country are seriously overusing health care," Mrs. Turner said. "Everyone winds up paying the price for that. What do you do? Put more price controls into the Medicare program? That clearly has not worked. Consumers need more incentives and more power to manage the costs of their care."
Yeah, that's right. We've got people pulling their own teeth with pliers, and dying from entirely preventable diseases because they couldn't afford to go see a doctor, but all this wench sees is a problem on the "consumer" end. Just make it harder for them to get treatment, she reasons (as so many of her ilk, in and out of government, do), and all our troubles will vanish as the morning fog into the sunshiney noon. Well, guess what? We also all of us pay the price for the people who can't afford health care and end up in the hospital on life support. And it's a hell of a more expensive bill than that of a couple shots or a well-care diagnostic series. Do you think people like Turner and Bush and any of the other compassionate conservatives who jumped on this bandwagon ever had to endure a day without excellent health care? Ever went a day without food because they had to? Ever had to make a choice between seeing a doctor and paying the light bill? Please.

But there's another obstacle to fat fourth-quarter returns: dramatic increases in the cost of heating bills this winter, with estimates ranging from 70% higher in the Buffalo and Dayton areas area, to 29% higher in Massachusetts:
"The U.S. Energy Department has predicted that heating oil bills this winter in the Northeast will rise 30 percent, assuming average temperatures.
The National Energy Assistance Directors' Association is projecting an average heating oil bill of $1,541 this winter, and that was before the bad news of Hurricane Katrina hit the market.
The heating bill for customers using natural gas is likely to be even higher."
And don't forget the cost of food and other goods transported via fossil fuels, which have already risen. When I walked into my local supermarket a week after the hurricane hit, I found local peaches featured prominently at the entrance in a lovely display, for 2 pounds for $5. Whatta deal! 3 lb. bag of cheap-ass white onions? A dollar a pound! And during a trip across the state last weekend, I saw that people in the west were paying a full 50 cents less per gallon of gas than we here in Philly, despite the fact that we sit on a tank farm of Sunoco refineries, and have the lousy air to prove it. Gas is still averaging over $3.00 a gallon around my area. For some reason Big Oil thought it was a safe bet to really stick it to the mid-Atlantic, so much so that AAA (that knight errant for all things on four wheels) has called for an inquiry into the situation.

The effect of all this is bad enough for people who are able to work:

"(Kathleen Camilli, head of Camilli Economics in New York) adds a sober thought: We'd better hope higher prices get stuck at the input level. She holds little hope that wages could match a serious wave of price hikes.
If customer-support desks can be outsourced to Bangalore, India, and factory jobs to China, then surely there's a limit on how much an American worker can demand to make up for his higher cost of living. This is especially true of underskilled, nontech workers. The lower down the ladder the worker is, the more vulnerable he is.
Average hourly earnings in August rose 2.7% vs. a year earlier. So wages have nearly kept up with prices.
But the latest energy price surge will likely outstrip modest raises.
Also, Camilli says the CPI doesn't fully reflect local price changes.
Yes, prices are falling for a bunch of things: computers, cell phones, clothing. These are the items that can be made cheaply abroad by big companies that can employ innovations or economies of scale, like Dell, (DELL) Motorola (MOT) and Wal-Mart. (WMT)
But services are more shielded.
The barber on Main Street can't use cheap Chinese labor to offset skyrocketing energy costs. Likewise, his customers can't go overseas for a trim.
Either the barber raises his prices, eats the higher costs, or lays off a worker, like the guy who sweeps up. In reality, we're seeing a combination of all three of these options.
Camilli says this is the kind of data that the government misses."
But for the retired, or disabled, or just plain poor who often live on a knife edge, and who will be the ones forced to pick a plan this month, these are the kinds of things that make the difference between being able to eat or not.214

Don't talk to me about the fabulous job Bush did covering his scat in New Orleans last week. Don't tell me about compassionate conservatism. I don't believe in conspiracy theories, and that's why this is not a conspiracy theory. This is a Final Solution.

Why The Poor Will Always Be With Us

Digby is kind enough to post a Wall Street Journal piece a friend sent him so ALL non-subscribing readers can have strokes. Dancing on the graves of those who died to provide them this opportunity, Republican zealots in Congress are crowing about enterprise zones, the murder of union representation, and wresting the legal system from those who might want to complain. Here's some of what gets these necrophiliacs hard:
"Just yesterday (the Bush administration) waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region."
Well, yes, because you know how hard it is to find blacks and Asians down there, and hell, you can hardly find women anywhere.
"Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and...Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would offer sweeping protection against lawsuits to any person or organization that helps Katrina victims without compensation."
Last thing you want is for people to demand recompense for losing their loved ones or everything they own by suing the assholes who could have prevented it. And never mind that much of the damage caused by the hurricane was the result of the destruction of the wetlands barrier around NOLA thanks to a callous disregard for environmental concerns over the last 20 years. Who needs environmental restrictions when there's lots more money to be made by the people who won't have to live with the result? School vouchers? All the better to eliminate that nasty universal free education cancer that resulted in all these over-educated drones thinking they actually had the right to expect a decent living. And as for protection against lawsuits for those helping Katrina victims, think of the experiments that could be done! All those folks exposed to toxic chemicals and bacteria! Why, I'll bet the EPA would have a field day mining that rich vein of poor people! Just offer them a nice baby bib and a video camera.
""The desire to bring conservative, free-market ideas to the Gulf Coast is white hot," says Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Group, an influential caucus of conservative House members. "We want to turn the Gulf Coast into a magnet for free enterprise. The last thing we want is a federal city where New Orleans once was."
Many of the ideas under consideration have been pushed by the 40-member study group, which is circulating a list of "free-market solutions," including proposals to eliminate regulatory barriers to awarding federal funds to religious groups housing hurricane victims, waiving the estate tax for deaths in the storm-affected states; and making the entire region a "flat-tax free-enterprise zone."
Members of the group met in a closed session Tuesday night at the conservative Heritage Foundation headquarters here to map strategy. Edwin Meese, the former Reagan administration attorney general, has been actively involved."
That's right, you old fogeys who can remember his name...Edwin Meese, the Alberto Gonzales of the Reagan years, who gave his sound legal imprimatur to Reagan's secret plan to sell weapons to Iran. No doubt he'll be useful here. This kind of weasel-work is right up his alley. Does anyone else here think this sounds like some kind of vulturine star chamber?

And just in case you thought they learned anything from the spike in gasoline prices right after the hurricane, you can just disabuse yourself of that:
"Republicans, meanwhile, say they will also press for a new round of energy concessions, including incentives to rebuild and expand offshore drilling and clear the way for new refineries that were dropped from a 500-page energy bill that passed last month.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton of Texas and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe are working on bills that would encourage refineries to build new plants and expand existing ones by rolling back environmental rules and making it easier for refineries to navigate regulatory channels in Washington."
Oh, those poor oil companies! All those bulging government subsidies and record-breaking profits, but it's never enough, is it? No, they've got to be coaxed into making more money:
"The National Petrochemical & Refineries Association would like lawmakers to reduce the depreciation period from 10 years to five years in order to stimulate investment."
Because, you know, they're just so gun-shy about making investments in refinery-building, what with the fact that we're running out of product to refine and how the hell else are they going to maintain those profits unless they can convince the American taxpayer to keep throwing money down that black hole?

If they porked up this kind of deal to benefit the poor and infirm, reactionaries all over the map would be screaming about "responsibility" and "hand-holding" and how we're actually hurting the poor by helping them. But when it goes to a good cause--making money for those who already have it--why, no kickback is too outrageous, too shameful to propose.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

One Last Chance

Go read Frank Rich now, before he disappears behind the fiscal curtain the Times is about to draw around their harem. Here's a sample of his excellently damning piece:
"The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.
In the chaos unleashed by Katrina, these plot strands coalesced into a single tragic epic played out in real time on television. The narrative is just too powerful to be undone now by the administration's desperate recycling of its greatest hits: a return Sunshine Boys tour by the surrogate empathizers Clinton and Bush I, another round of prayers at the Washington National Cathedral, another ludicrously overhyped prime-time address flecked with speechwriters' "poetry" and framed by a picturesque backdrop. Reruns never eclipse a riveting new show."
Please let it be so.

Try To Remember (This Kind Of September)

In the run-up to the anti-war mobilization effort in D.C. this coming weekend, I'll be posting some wonderful graphics from one of the best sources on the web, Project For The Old American Century.

In the traumatic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the issue of the war in Iraq has been given a back seat, but the reverberations of both disasters will be felt for a long, long time. Katrina is over. The damage it caused waits to be fixed. But Iraq is a continuous bleeding vein of damage, and it continues to claim and ruin lives, not to mention the stoking of international hatred toward us and our people that gives the lie to Bush's claim of making us safer. Maybe it will take the behemoth claw of the Selective Service to finally make Americans care enough to get off their asses and really do something to stop the war. But maybe they can be reached first by people showing them the way, who make their voices heard. No, there's no guarantee the world will stop, the president will resign, and the flowers will bloom in the spring, tra-la. But like Cindy Sheehan and countless others, you can at least look in the mirror and know you stepped forward to take on the mantle of a citizen.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sheehan in Philly--The Peace Rally

The Peace Rally last night on the lawn next to the National Constitution Center near Independence Hall ran a little late, simply because there were so many speakers trying to squeeze into the 2-hour timeframe, but it felt like it went quickly.

They said we were the largest crowd they had yet encountered on the tour, and though I'm not good at estimating that kind of thing, it seemed like there could have been 500, all told.

What I missed, having had to hoof it across the city to get there after right after work, was Councilwoman Blondell Reynold-Brown reading the Resolution Against The War passed the day before by the Philadelphia City Council. Although she was the sponsor who introduced the resolution, it was co-sponsored by 12 other council members, including two Republicans. Here's what the website had to say about it:

"On the urging of members and friends of the Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour, the Philadelphia City Council voted today 16 to 1 for a Resolution calling on the federal government to "rapidly withdraw US troops from Iraq expeditiously." Following a Thursday morning caucus session in which Gold Star Families for Peace co-founder Celeste Zappala and other Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour members were introduced to council members..."
In addition to Cindy Sheehan's Gold Star Families for Peace members, other groups represented at the rally included Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, and Military Families Speak Out. There were a wonderfully representative group of speakers, and some singer-songwriters who played and sang beautifully. Although the crowd spanned the age range, it seemed a bit on the older side. That will certainly change when the draft comes down. And, as so often happens with political activities like this, it was way too white. If this message is to start taking root and have resonance, outreach efforts have to be made more strenuously to link to and include minorities and their advocacy groups, especially since they are the ones doing a disproportionate amount of the fighting on the ground. But enough of that. It was inspiring, and I was glad I could be there. It lacked the carnival atmosphere that attends many such gatherings, but that was okay. Members of various groups circulated through the crowd handing out flyers and stickers, and the Iraq vets were selling IVAW T-shirts (I wanted one but at $20 I just couldn't spend the cash. I'll pick one up at the DC rally.) Further up, close to the speaker's platform were places to buy buttons and tour shirts. People stretched out on the grass, dogs rolled, babies cooed, bicycles served as impromptu chairs. Many threads ran through the speeches, not the least of which were calls for impeachment and rallying for attendance at the DC anti-war mobilization next Saturday. It was a night of strong rhetoric, much stronger than I had expected.

The speakers included (list leaves out a couple speakers I couldn't catch and the musicians who performed):
  • Celeste Zappala, Philadelphia, PA, a co-founder with Sheehan of Gold Star Familes for Peace, whose son Sgt. Sherwood Baker was the first PA National Guardsman to die in combat since World War II, killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. Celeste is an articulate, eloquent speaker with an electrifying style coming straight out of her deep pain and anger. I saw her speak before, at the union hall with Al Franken during a MoveOn-sponsored election tour in 2004, and she had us all in tears. She was easily the best and most moving speaker there last night. (I also learned that night that she and her family are neighbors of my daughter's boyfriend, and her son Dante is one of his friends. Small, small world.)
  • AFSCME District Council 47 President Tom Cronin spoke of union solidarity for the peace movement and the upcoming DC demonstration.
  • Former City Councilman Angel Ortiz, Philadelphia's most famous unlicensed driver, roused the crowd with Bush epithets and his repeated cries to "Impeach Bush!" (Not the last time that was heard that night.)
  • Bill Perry, Levittown PA, a member of Veterans for Peace and the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, who was a paratrooper during the Tet offensive in 1967 and 1968, spoke of the "karmic debt" he owes for what he did in Vietnam, and how the anti-war work he is doing now is part of that. He pointed the crowd to the site.
  • Rabbi Art Waskow, Philadelphia, whose cries for "Shalom! Salaam! Peace!" rang out through the crowd. (Check out his piece on Frist, here.)
  • Dante Zappala, son of Celeste and brother of Sherwood Baker, spoke about how his brother was killed (searching for WMDs), how divided the country is, and how embracing others' losses as our own is the key to finding common cause.
  • Sherie Cohen, Philadelphia, sent a message from her dad, City Councilman David Cohen reiterating support for the resolution and calling on the crowd to pressure their representatives to end the war.
  • Kellisa Stanley, Texas, whose husband at Fort Hood did a one-year tour of duty in Iraq and is scheduled for redeployment next year, said she had 2 exit strategies for the troops: "Boat. And plane." She spoke of the fear with which she lived while her husband was in Iraq, waiting with dread each day between 6 to 10 a.m., because those are the hours during which the military is allowed to deliver the news of a death to a soldier's family.
  • Patrick Resta, Philadelphia, with Iraq Veterans Against the War, served as a combat medic from February to November, 2004. His aunt and uncle were killed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. He wondered why a 28-yr. old friend in his platoon had to die when an explosion tore into his behicle because 1/2" sheets of plywood had been nailed into his Humvee instead of the armor that should have been there. He wondered, because as he said, there were plenty of armored Humvees---they were used to go to meetings and USO shows, but not for patrols. He talked of people dying because the paperwork needed to release them couldn't be done. He talked of his own fears and anger because he had to buy his own body armor; because he was issued a gas mask that was useless because it didn't fit; because just before going into combat he was issued a rifle he'd never held, never sighted or been able to prep.
  • Vince George, West Virginia, of Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out, talked about being an Arab-American with a brother in the National Guard who was previously in Kosovo before being orderd up to Iraq. His "fascist gangsters" remark referencing Bushco got an especially heartfelt hand from the crowd. He, too, called for impeachment, saying the next election needs 11 seats taken back from the Republicans to get it done.
  • Pat Bonner(sp?), PA, has a son in the PA National Guard who was sent to Egypt to police their elections. She wanted to know what we would think of having them come here to do the same to us. She was a firebrand, leveling war crimes charges at Bushco, and calling for revolution.
  • Lietta Ruger, Washington state, with Military Families Speak Out, has a son in law and nephew in Germany who have served extended 15-month tours of duty in Iraq and are presently under “stop loss” orders. They are scheduled to deploy to Iraq this fall. She said we must always challenge a president to define the mission before jumping into war.
  • Jeff Key, Alabama, a Marine reservist who served in Iraq in 2003, was easily the most charming and charismatic of the speakers. A friendly, almost puppy-like, young gay man, he spoke in a sweet drawl of the early idealism that led him to join the Marines, and finished up by pointing at the Liberty Bell on the other side of the street behind him, saying the first time he saw the layers of bulletproof plastic in which it was encased, he wondered where the bell was. "Then I saw it. It's kinda like America's obscured, but I know it's still there somewhere."
  • Beatriz Saldivar, Texas, a Gold Star Families for Peace member. Her nephew Daniel Torres was killed in action on February 4th, 2005 in Baygii, Iraq on his second tour of Iraq due to stop loss orders after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded and hit his unarmored Humvee. He left behind a pregnant fiancee whose baby is due this weekend.
  • U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah, Philadelphia, spoke words of encouragement, and of how more and more folks are agreeing that we were miled into war with lies. He spoke of meeting Cassandra Bryan at Walter Reed hospital, where she was sent to recover after losing both legs in Iraq, and he spoke of the thousands of others severely injured.
  • And finally, Cindy Sheehan herself. She told of her initial hesitancy in becoming an activist because "I thought one person can't make a difference. Then I said, 'If I can't make a difference, at least I'll know I tried. I can look at myself in the mirror, and tell my grandchildren that I tried.'" She spoke of "Bush's insane & moronic policies", and of the Bush chickenhawks, how they wouldn't risk dying for their country when they had a chance to, but now want to send others to again do their dying for them. She spoke about their "dangerous incompetence". She talked about the reasons put forth by Bushco for the war: Freedom & Democracy ("An Islamic constitution is not a democracy that takes rights away from women, that gives power to a puppet leadership"); and Keeping America Safer ("How did it make America safer to invade a country that was no threat to us? Why are their babies more important than our babies? Katerina proved that we're more vulnerable now because of this war").

Cindy finished as volunteers circulated through the crowd with candles for a candle-lighting ceremony at the end of the night, saying that "It's not about politics, or who's a Republican or Democrat. It's about flesh and blood. It's about life and death." She talked about the tour, and how they would end up in D.C. for the anti-war march, and invited the crowd to join them there. Jeff Key played taps as he had done in Crawford, while we stood in silence, remembering the dead and maimed.

When we disbanded, I felt good about my country. It's been a long time since that happened.

Editor's note: Special thanks to Monique Frugier for the photos.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sheehan Comes to Philly, Update

Speaking of activism, I'll be on hand at the Peace Rally this evening. From the time I was a little kid, I was never a joiner, and I hated clubs and organizations. But Bush has lit a fire under me like I've never felt, and I want to be heard, be seen, and be a force for change beyond this kvetching I do here and elsewhere. No, not everyone is cut out to march in the streets, and no, it isn't a condition for being a real activist and a good person. But it is something I feel in my soul to be what's right for me, and I will be becoming more and more of a street-fighting progressive in the months to come, because I'm so fucking mad I can't help it.

Stolen from PA For Democracy, for folks in the Philadelphia area:

The Bring Them Home Now Tour has launched three buses from Crawford, Texas, each carrying military and Gold Star families, veterans of the Iraq War and veterans of previous wars. These buses will travel different routes across the country, converging in Washington, DC on September 21, for the United for Peace and Justice Mobilization September 24th-26th.

In Philadelphia
Friday, Sept. 16:

11:30 AM--Gold Star Families award area AFL-CIO leaders for their work to end the war. AFL-CIO Headquarters, 22 South 22nd Street. (More info: 215-945-3350 or 215-741-1980.)

5-7 PM--Rally for Peace at Independence Hall, 5th and market Sts., Philadelphia

Saturday, Sept. 17:

Noon to Evening--Camp Gold Star at Lemon Hill Park Meet with Gold Star Parents and Iraq Vets. (Latest info, call 610-832-7028)

For local info: 610-832-7028 - For tour info:

To March Or Not To March--The New Liberal Division

So. The ongoing debate continues: to march or not to march in D.C. this September 24. The question to be answered is whether ANSWER, an organization rooted in the World Workers' Party, will so dilute the anti-Iraq War message with other agendas, and so trivialize/delegitimize the exercise by the injection of nutcase fringe elements, that participation will necessarily be a waste of time, or worse, an opportunity for the Right to twist the whole demonstration into a joke and pull its sting.

I understand why some people feel this way. I don't care anymore. I posted the following at The American Street on September 13:

Over at Corrente, brand-new blog member chicago dyke is ruminating on the dust-up that occurred on 9/4 in comments at John Aravosis' AmericaBlog, over whether the participation of ANSWER in the upcoming anti-war mobilization in D.C. renders the entire thing illegitimate. As she notes, people are opting out to avoid being tarred with all those uncomfortable labels we hated so much in the 60's and 70's, and for fear it will neuter the protest by atomizing into many irrelevant sub-issues. And as she also notes, issues like Haiti, which are being raised by ANSWER, are issues that matter to a lot of people who most of us recognize as fairly sane and respectable.

I've thought a lot about this issue, and my friends and political aquaintances have discussed it, too. I know it can be troubling. But here's my thing: I'm going to D.C. and make my voice heard against the war, and fuck all the rest. Lots of people from many walks of life will be doing the same, and just because we may agree on this one issue doesn't mean we'll agree with everything, or that we have to.

Some of them may be embarassing to me. Oh, well. If fucking Whitley Strieber wants to show up and lay it all on alien abductions, oh, well. The more people who want to make a serious statement against the war opt out, for fear of being labelled "nuts", the more the real nuts will make up the demographics of the protest, and the more likely it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And since when did the enormous size of the lunatic fringe that makes up the Right in this country ever deter moderate conservatives from aligning themselves with issues and with their party when they felt it was the right thing to do? Hell, they don't even bother to disavow the nuts in their groups.

If we want to make changes in this nation, we need to stop worrying about how we're perceived everytime we want to take a stand. What happened to all that internal autonomy and inner-directed independent thinking we used to pride ourselves on being so typical of the Left? Liberals have bent over backward to accommodate the rest of the spectrum and tone down our message for decades, and has it done us any good so far? No, all it's done is get us a wingnut reactionary government and given us a reputation for being mealy-mouthed and unable to stand up for anything.

So screw all that. No matter what we do they'll be able to turn it on its head. Christ, they even managed to demonize a grieving mother whose son died in their fabulous goddamn war. They'll call us nuts and pinkos and traitors and extremists even if we show up with nothing but a bunch of 70-year old ladies in wheelchairs waving little flags. So just step up and speak out.

Let the nuts take care of themselves.
The debate continued. I even heard about it in the halls of my office. Then eRobin of Fact-esque posted her reasons for participation in the march:
"because the war is a crime against not only our Constitution and our military service people but also against humanity.

because what’s happening in Haiti is a war and because the people in Haiti cannot march for themselves.

because the only way to preserve a right is to exercise it.

I’m going to march because I’m tired of this this threat from Henry Kissinger being the de facto motto of this country: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people.”

I’m going to march for myself so that I can:

get energized for the struggle ahead.

meet people who believe what I believe and learn from them."
There's more; go read it. I begin to understand why the Right has been so determined to hide their dirty laundry, and keep everyone united on the appropriate talking points to avoid the appearance of fractiousness. But aren't we supposed to be better than that? Shouldn't the essential and most basic messages of our philospohy--tolerance, compassion, truth, and progress--be able to stand fast against such dissension without our retreating to the peer-pressure tactics of high school? So I responded in comments there:

I, for one, will be very pleased that you'll be there, Robin, and as for the Stockholm liberals, what can you do? Change doesn't come only from punching out polemics on a keyboard. Somebody has to be willing to get up and out into the real world, and stand up and be seen. The Vietnam War ended when the country could no longer ignore the massive demonstrations that appeared month after month till the last evacuation. We watched in amazement when the Ukranians marched in the street and wrested a new government from the old, but that was the key...they DID go into the streets. They organized, and talked to their neighbors. Their fellow citizens saw them take a stand in the public arena, and it gave them hope and resolve. Humans are creatures of community. They learn by example, and are willing to follow the lead of others if someone is willing to lead; it's our downfall and our saving grace. No matter how eloquent we are on the internet, or how great our readership grows, that goes only so far toward inspiring others to take action. And I don't mean just clicking on a link to a petition, or sending an e-mail to a legislator. It's the difference between sending money to a charity and getting out and staffing the shelters.

Personally, I'd look forward to a day when I wouldn't have to keep bitching about the status quo. But the Stockholm liberals, like elements of so many oppressed peoples, may have a stake in seeing things stay the same, and maintaining their identities as contrarians and victims. Or maybe their fear of banishment from the opposition frat house is greater than their fear of a future deformed by the life-hating beasts of the Right.

Either way, I'll take my chances with the folks in D.C.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Blind Begin To See, The Deaf To Hear

Americans gather in preparation for the presidential press conference.

Bush finally sinks below 40% approval rating in 2 polls:
    1. Ipsos-AP 39% overall approval, 59% disapproval; and
    2. Newsweek 38% overall approval, 55% disapproval.
Ruy Texiera at Donkey Rising has more good news:
"Other polls report approval ratings that are exactly at 40 percent or only slightly above: Pew Research Center (40 percent in two different polls, September 6-7 and September 8-12); Zogby (41 percent); CBS News, Time/SRBI and Washington Post/ABC News (all at 42 percent). (Note that in the ABC poll, the 57 percent who disapprove of Bush’s job performance includes 45 percent who strongly disapprove, an amazing finding.)"
He concludes with a bit from E.J.Dionne that is simply heart-warming, but his own conclusion isn't bad either:
"So: the public now has a negative view of Bush’s job performance overall and in every area, including handling the war on terror, and has lost faith in Bush’s special qualities as a leader. What’s left? Not much. The bond between Bush and the American people has clearly been broken, perhaps irrevocably. An administration that was once defined in the public eye with competence and patriotism is now associated with cronyism and incompetence of the worst sort."
Too bad it took untold torment and needless deaths yet uncounted to get it through our thick skulls.

Sheehan Comes To Philly

Stolen from PA For Democracy, for folks in the Philadelphia area:

The Bring Them Home Now Tour has launched three buses from Crawford, Texas, each carrying military and Gold Star families, veterans of the Iraq War and veterans of previous wars. These buses will travel different routes across the country, converging in Washington, DC on September 21, for the United for Peace and Justice Mobilization September 24th-26th.

In Philadelphia Starting Tonight

Thursday, Sept. 15:

3:30 - 5 PM--Panel Discussion, The George School, State Road 413, Newtown, Bucks County (School contact: 215-579-6500. More info: 215-547-2656.)

7 PM-- Ecumenical service in honor of the men and women killed in Iraq. All welcome. First United Methodist Church Of Germantown (FUMCOG), 6023 Germantown Ave. (Church contact: 215-438-3677. More info: 610-564-7628.)

Friday, Sept. 16:

11:30 AM--Gold Star Families award area AFL-CIO leaders for their work to end the war. AFL-CIO Headquarters, 22 South 22nd Street. (More info: 215-945-3350 or 215-741-1980.)

5-7 PM--Rally for Peace at Independence Hall, 5th and market Sts., Philadelphia

Saturday, Sept. 17:

Noon to Evening--Camp Gold Star at Lemon Hill Park Meet with Gold Star Parents and Iraq Vets. (Latest info, call 610-832-7028)

For local info: 610-832-7028 - For tour info:

His Mooney, Mooney Face*

Apologies to* XTC

Book Alert: Chris Mooney, much like the Ross Ice Shelf, has embarked on a world tour. Well, at least a book tour. chris mooney

Leah wrote about Chris recently here, and covered his new book, The Republican War on Science, here, then got Corrente a mention on his website, no less.

He interviewed on the BBC 2 weeks ago, and impressed me so much I did some research on him and remarked on it here. Now he will be on Terry Gross' Fresh Air today, on those NPR/Public Radio stations that carry her show.

This is what Chris has to say about the impending interview:

"My interview with Terry Gross is slated to air tomorrow (Sept 15th). It appears that it will be paired with at least some commentary from GOP science policy spokesman Robert Walker. That should be interesting; I doubt Walker will be writing a love letter to the book."
Interesting at the very least.

As usual, the audio of the interview will be made available later today on the website linked here. As good a reason as any to keep supporting NPR and your local public radio.

Photo from Mooney website, taken by Saheli.

"The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Wrecks The World"

Oliphant on L'Enfant's latest lesson learned.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Work has been swamping me. Plus I have something in the works that may prove life-changing if it goes down; more about that in a week or two.

Till then, I'm hoping to post a few things later today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Click Here

I'm spilling my guts over at The American Street today, and with this post, very cleverly linking my 3 blogs and a couple of blogfriends all at the same time.

As Small Faces sang in Itchycoo Park, "It's all too beautiful".

cakeOh, and
Happy Birthday!
to my dear friend
and husband of 26 years.

Keep fighting
the good fight.

I love you more than ever.

And On A Happier Note...

Over at Pen-Elayne on the Web, Elayne Riggs has some great shots of fellow bloggers taken at a backyard picnic thrown by Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged, including Michael Berube, Steve Gilliard, and Barbara O'Brien (many others, too!) Fun to see what people look like.

Nice to blog about something that doesn't depress the hell out of me. Thanks, Elayne.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Change Is Gonna Come

Brian Williams, long a cheerleader of the Bush regime, went to NOLA and had an epiphany. Now the news anchor of one of the top broadcast stations in the country has used the word “criminal” in relation to George W. Bush and his administration:
“There was water, there was food, and there were choppers to drop both. Why no one was able to combine them in an airdrop is a cruel and criminal mystery of this dark chapter in our recent history. The words 'failure of imagination' come to mind.”
He concludes:
“I refuse to believe that anyone I met at the dome has lesser value than anybody in my family that I go home to. I don't believe that about this country. I don't want that to be the lesson in this. I was angry. People were going without and dying in the wealthiest country the world has ever known.”
The ramifications of this can’t be overestimated, I think. Many, many reporters, including those like Shepard Smith from Fox, had their eyes opened by this tragedy. They were there before the spin began, and they had their own experiences to compare to the puling excuse-mongering and mirroring that Bushco began in earnest when the outrage began to penetrate their force field of entitlement. Will they hold onto this newfound ability to speak the truth and demand it from others?

They'd better. Because I see Watts and Detroit all over again if they don't.